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High and Dry 

Voter Indifference, Hard Lessons

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High and Dry
Not to be too wonky, but you really should hear what anthropologist Eric Cline has to say about the apocalypse. Actually, he's talking more about the things that cause a civilization to collapse than religious revelations. And even though Cline likes to delve into the Bronze Age, he makes it clear that modern-day civilization could be nearing the end as we know it. Let's start with drought. In his presentations on NPR and YouTube, Cline notes that a few years of drought don't necessarily spell disaster, but drought in a climate-changing world might. You've heard the governor whine about saving water, but a Salt Lake Tribune report showed that Utah has the highest per-capita municipal water use in the nation—and still some of the lowest water rates. Even Sen. Mitt Romney thinks we're not addressing this existential threat. The lakes and rivers are drying up and yet our answer to the problem is prayer, even while water-guzzling developments are growing and Utah's esteemed rural guardian Mike McKell is planning a golf course in the desert. What could possibly go wrong?

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Voter Indifference
The Utah Foundation just released a report on the stunning strength of citizen participation in public meetings. But then it turned to the curious news of low voter turnout. It says we "surged" to 13th out of the 50 states in the 2020 midterms, but fell to 39th in the presidential election. What gives? We know Utahns get hot and bothered about all kinds of issues, but voting? Meh. That is likely because of the politically monolithic nature of the state. Let's take citizen participation, though, and the inland port. There has been broad citizen participation, even as the port board plays in the dark. A recent letter from Salt Lake City to "Jack and Jill"—the Port Authority honchos—expressed disdain that no city representatives are taking part in the creation of a Public Infrastructure District bent on issuing $150 million in taxpayer-backed bonds for a transloading facility. The Port Authority doesn't really like the loud and insistent public participation in this area, but it moves ahead anyway because they can depend on a lack of engagement from voters.

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Hard Lessons
Speaking of public participation—how about the anti-vaxxers. Frankly, it's too bad the media pays so much attention to them. Sunday's Salt Lake Tribune, however, featured the poignant and personal story of Luke Peterson, who delved into his late father's early childhood polio and what he now sees as the post-polio syndrome that marked his father's later life. Vaccination: That's what it's all about. Polio is hardly on people's minds these days, having been virtually eradicated by its vaccine, but COVID-19 is. Despite stories—like those in the Trib—about devastated families that regret their decisions not to vaccinate, Utahns persist in their fight for liberty and death. Not even the threat to their children's health has changed their minds. Maybe reading about Bob Peterson will.

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About The Author

Katharine Biele

Katharine Biele

Bio:
A City Weekly contributor since 1992, Biele is the informed voice behind our Hits & Misses and Citizen Revolt columns. When not writing, you can catch her working to empower voters and defend democracy alongside the League of Women Voters.

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